China White is a common street name for a heroin substitute that contains the synthetic opioid fentanyl. Fentanyl is a fast-acting, and incredibly powerful painkiller and anesthetic. Dealers sometimes mix China White into heroin to increase the drug’s potency. However, this can, unfortunately, result in rapid central nervous system (CNS) depression, coma, and death for the naive user. The powder can be snorted, or diluted with water and injected using a needle.
China White’s Effect on the Brain
Psychoactive substances, including opioids like China White, activate the reward center of the brain to an extreme level. They do this, in part, by affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical messager responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. This effect, over time, can make users highly susceptible to cravings for the substance, to an extent in which the person begins to obsess over its attainment and use.
When addictive behavior begins to occur, the person will often find less pleasure in other activities, including those essential for living, such as eating. The drug, in essence, hijacks the brain’s reward center, and nothing else will compare to the feelings of euphoria it provides.
The neurochemical action of fentanyl or “China White” is comparable to that of heroin, but fentanyl is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin itself. As such, China White is exceptionally addictive and produces intense cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms, among other vital health complications.
Unfortunately, altering the dopamine reward system over time will eventually cause the body to begin to rely on the drug to activate dopamine release. As a result, tolerance begins to develop—a condition in which the person needs increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the sought-after effects. Regarding many drugs, tolerance is a product of the body’s tendency to act in a way that reflects “repeated exposure = reduced response.”
Moreover, a person who has been using China White may soon discover that heroin no longer produces the effects they seek, therefore encouraging the continued abuse of the more potent and lethal alternative. Along with tolerance, dependence can also rapidly develop.
When an individual becomes chemically dependent on a substance, his or her body and brain can no longer correctly function if they try to quit or drastically cut back. As such, cessation of drug use leads to a variety of highly unpleasant symptoms, also known as withdrawal. These symptoms often compel the person to return to use as a means to mitigate them or avoid them altogether.
Negative Effects of China White
The impact of China White on the mind and body is nearly immediate, and even in minuscule doses, it can depress respiration to potentially lethal levels. As such, the risk of death can be further increased if used in combination with any other opioids or CNS depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or even medications as seemingly innocuous as antidepressants.
In addition to profound respiratory depression, China White can also cause gastrointestinal issues, fluctuations in heart rate, fainting, and extended periods of fatigue and sedation. It also raises a person’s risk of experiencing mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, confusion, paranoia, and dramatic personality changes. It has also been known to undermine the immune system and induce hallucinations.
China White has also been linked to thousands of life-threatening overdoses, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported as occurring in the last few years alone. Many of these deaths were linked to heroin that had been laced with fentanyl unknown to the user. A dose of pure China White greater than 2 mg can be lethal, and combining it with other psychoactive drugs, particularly depressants, intensifies this danger.
Withdrawal symptoms associated with China White are often more severe than that of heroin and may include the following:
- Intense drug cravings
- Chills and sweating
- Muscle aches and pains
- Changes in appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Anxiety and depression
Due to the seriousness of cravings and symptoms, a medically-supervised detox is recommended to help a person get through the physical and emotional changes safely while preventing relapse. This process usually lasts anywhere from three days to one week.
Detox programs usually address symptoms with pharmaceuticals, nutritional approaches, the treatment of any co-occurring mental health conditions, and continuous emotional support. These are considered to be essential components of any comprehensive treatment program for fentanyl addiction.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Just Believe Recovery offers professional support and integrated, evidence-based treatment options to meet the individual needs of those seeking help for an addiction to a substance, including heroin or fentanyl.
Our team of addiction specialists aims to provide each patient with the tools and support they need to succeed at sobriety and achieve long-lasting wellness. If you are struggling with an addiction, we urge you to contact us today and discover how we can help you begin your journey to recovery and guide you every step of the way!